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Diglake Colliery Flooding 1895 - Page 2
One Of The Many Hazards Faced By Miners Is Water

Thanks To John Lumsdon

At the enquiry held on February 14th 1895
Mr Frank Rigby, Managing Director, accepted entire responsibility for all the work done in the East 10 Feet and admitted that no bore holes had been kept, and gave as a reason that the plans showed that they were 80 yards away from the pond of water. He also stated that they intended to abandon that part of the workings, while a barrier of 60 yards remained. So he intended to advance a further 20 yards.(He was aware of General Rule 13)

Coal Mines Regulation Act 1887 General Rule 13.---Water and Bore Holes. Where a place is likely to contain a dangerous accumulation of water, the working approaching that place shall not at any point within forty yards of that place exceed eight feet in width, and there shall be constantly kept at a sufficient distance, not being less than five yards in advance, at least one bore hole near the centre of he working, and sufficient flank bore holes on each side.

On Wednesday June 12th, the enquiry resumed with Mr. Dodd, under manager of East 10 ft since the workings had been opened, was in the witness box.

He stated that he had no idea where the water had come from and contended he was carrying out the Mines act in not having bore holes on, because the plans showed that they were 60 yards from the pond of water.

The next gentleman called was James Maddocks, general underground manager for Messes. Rigby's collieries, he had not been in the workings since the early part of the previous December, and only went down these pits on special occasions.

At this point came the most serious part of the enquiry. The Company then put in an old surface plan (a land plan) which in our opinion (Cowey and Haslam) was utterly unreliable, so far as to the amount of mineral left as a barrier between the ponds of water.

We are impelled to this opinion because it transpired that no platting or measurement had been resorted to as a check on the facts as to the actual workings in any way, and we feel compelled here to state that the whole working the 10ft, seam had been carried on in a most haphazard way, and that ordinary precautions would have ensured bore holes being carried on at the face of the workings. It appears from the evidence that bore holes had be carried in front of the workings previously, but the Managing Director, Mr. F. Rigby, relying on the surface plan, had ordered the bore holes to be discontinued, but in our opinion if these bore holes had been continued this lamentable disaster would not have occurred.

Coal Mines Regulation Act Section 34 (1.) Plan of mine to be kept at office, states;
The owner agent or manager of every mine shall keep in the office at the mine an accurate plan of the workings of the mine, showing the workings up to a date not more than three months previously, and the general direction and rate of dip of the strata, together with a section of the strata sunk through, or if that is not reasonably practicable, a statement of the depth of the shaft, with a section of the seam.

Mr. W. N. Atkinson, HM Inspector of Mines, leaned towards the opinion that the inherited plans of the earlier Diglake pit were misleading, and at a critical point were ambiguous.
Mr. Atkinson, produced a plan in his report that showed old workings between the
New Ten Feet Seam and the Old Ten Feet Seam and referred to in his report as the
"Unknown Place".
This would have seriously weakened the barrier between the pond of water and when the shot fired by William Sproson on that fateful day, it could have initiated that flood of water that caused so much death and destruction

Messrs. Warburton (Mining Engineer) and Edwards (Miners' Agent) having descended the mine to ascertain what efforts had been made to reach the scene of the disaster and recover the bodies, reported that it was impossible to get into the East 10ft. by the old way owing to the timbers being washed out, and the weight and crush and general breakdown, together with the large volume of water to be contended with. But we are of the opinion that if a drift, started through the measures,
20 yards up the shaft had been driven, the seat of the disaster could have been reached, and a number of bodies recovered, with the additional advantage that the exact point of the mischief would have been located and the thickness of the barrier of coal proved.

Furthermore, we are of the opinion that the Mines Act in this particular needs amending to the extent of compelling bore holes to be put in all mines when approaching water, as the plans of abandoned mines cannot be relied upon.

Meanwhile, everything possible was being done to alleviate the suffering of the stricken families.

Within 48 hours the North Staffs Permanent Relief Society, formed to combat the hardship resulting from the Talke Colliery explosion of 1866 when 91 men and boys were killed, held a meeting at which it was decided that the bereaved relatives would receive benefit on the following scale;
each boy under 16 yrs 10/-;
each unmarried adult 20/-;
each married person, funeral expenses of 5/-
each widow to receive 4/- per week for 5 yrs and for a succeeding 5 yrs 2/- per week
each child 2/- per week till he/she reached the age of 13 yrs when it would cease.

The Staffordshire Sentinel inaugurated a relief fund, with many generous donations and a wide range of money raising activities, including an England v Scotland football match at the Victoria Ground, a rugby union match, Elphinsons famous circus and the D' Ooyly Carte Co. putting on a performance of H.M.S. Pinafore. By the end of the year 17,000 had been raised for 37 widows and 88 children.
In the course of time, memories of the Diglake flooding faded, but, in terms of human life, an even greater disaster came to sadden the hearts of North Staffs people. This was the Minnie pit explosion of 1918 in which 155 lives were lost. Meanwhile mining operations at Diglake had been transferred to a new pit at Rookery, several hundred yards to the north east and it was from this pit in 1932, 37 years later that a heading was driven in the general direction of the abandoned mine.

After drawing off considerable quantities of water, the vicinity of the 1895 disaster was reached on August the 12th, 1932. Further exploration was then postponed because of accumulations of firedamp. It was not until September 3rd that it was considered safe to proceed. The same morning the searchers came across the skeleton of a man.

It was lying on its left side with the right arm extended above the skull. There was a clog on the right foot, and, inside the clog piece of stocking.

Apart from a few remnants of a leather belt and four trouser buttons, there were no other remains except the bones, and no means of identification. H.M.I. of Mines said no action was to be taken until the approach roads had been re timbered and made good. Then the skeleton was brought to the surface in March, 1933.

At the inquest considerable interest was re-awakened locally, and in particular for Wm. Sproson who as a lad of 16yrs had such a dramatic escape. It seemed his ordeal had not deterred him from a mining career. Now 54yrs old, he was a colliery fireman.

Medical evidence was given by Dr. Riley of Audley, to the effect that the skeleton was a well-built male of about 28yrs, and
5 feet 8 inches in height. Subsequently, two more skeletons were recovered. Calab Johnson, while engaged in cleaning up No.2 road of the Tenfeet seam at 10.30 a.m., came across a powder can and, further on, a skeleton. Dr.Riley said it was impossible to identify but appeared to be a man of about 40yrs.

On March the 6th, another one was found and brought up next day. It was decided to abandon any plans to explore further and the road way was sealed up, leaving the remains of the other 72 to rest for eternity in the place where they died.

In conclusion, whilst acknowledging that the miners of today still have no easy task, it would only be fair to say they have benefited with safety regulations and better conditions as a result of the tragedies and disasters of their forefathers.